Day and Night Pharmacy – Campaign for Plain English

Campaign for Plain English by Abel Kubare

Young Abel crying?

Young Abel crying?

English has been made easy. You’ll notice that the warning on your medicine label now reads ‘may make you sleepy’ instead of ‘may cause drowsiness’ just so that everyone gets it.   Some professor undertook a survey to check the natives’ comprehension of their vernacular and came up with some eye openers which  necessitated the changes.

Admittedly some cautionary labels have traditionally been ambiguous, for instance ‘Take after food’ or ‘Take before food’. These certainly needed sorting… how long after or how long before food? Now our computers print more specific cautions like ‘Take with or just after food, or a meal’ and ‘Take 30 to 60 minutes before food’: Loud and clear.

So much as we’ve had cautionary instructions straightened out, the health professionals still need to agree on a few dosage instructions though. For example what does ‘Take three daily ‘ mean?.. Is it take three all at once or is it take in divided doses, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night? And just to stretch into semantic trivia is it ‘Instil one drop in both eyes’ or ‘in each eye’? Surely one drop in both would be impossible! Please do not ever work an instruction out, if it’s not clear check with your pharmacist or prescriber.

Look who is giving a lecture on English in English to the English. My history with the language is a mixture of love and hate. At primary school I used to wet myself in the classroom, on the bench, because I couldn’t summon the courage to approach the teacher and parrot the prescribed sentence, ‘Excuse me madam, may I leave the classroom’. Damn! that was hard. If I got that wrong I’d get told off, get beaten and get sent back to my bench. The woman was the devil. We didn’t speak English at home and my parents were illiterate, most children were like that… but Mrs Murwi and her colleagues just didn’t care. One just had to memorise those words or wet their pants, my choice was simple.

A bursary got me into a posh high school and my luck got better but my colloquial English wasn’t up to scratch. At break time, a girl walked away from her beautiful friend and came to me giggling and saying that her friend had a crush on me. I gave her a dog’s grin and I continued to eat my candy cake. However at the earliest opportunity I consulted my dictionary to unravel the puzzle for me, I didn’t know what having a crush on someone meant! You see, I had come from the ghetto and all of a sudden I found myself at Hatfield Girls High where most of the kids grew up speaking English as a first language… By the way, the school only took in a few boys to fill the A Level classes; I’ve always been a man.

Most recently some of our regulars have been giving me stick for always referring to my wife as ‘the wife’. They say that equates her to some piece of furniture like the fridge or something. I say I’m the husband, it’s just fact. She knows I love her and I have said it so many times in the past that there is no need to keep  repeating myself. Besides, she never reads what I write anyway so I can even get away with calling her the wardrobe. Please no snitches.

I am sorry for digressing. Here is a note to a  common misunderstanding; when the caution says ‘Do not take indigestion remedies 2 hours before or after you take this medicine’  it is not referring to medicines that stop acid secretion like ranitidine or omeprazole, lansoprazole etc. Indigestion remedies are those that neutralise acid like your Milk of magnesia, gaviscon, enos, rennies etc.They tend to contain some salts which can interfere with the absorption of many medicines.

 Yours Medicinally, Abel Kubare,  Superintendent Pharmacist Day & Night Pharmacy

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